Running In Circles


We had a beautiful, sunny afternoon free last week so I drove the girls over to the playground. 

The playground was a little crowded.

This was the first time we’d been to one since last fall. I always get a little nervous when I’m on my own because it is difficult keeping up with both girls. Brandon, in fact, does not like me to take them to parks by myself. What if Rhema runs away or darts into the street? What if you can’t give Hope the attention she needs?

Here we go, I thought.

Rhema headed straight into the middle of the playground. I saw her look over to the swings, which were all occupied by older girls. Instantly, she dropped to the ground and began crying in a high-pitched voice.

I knelt beside her and spoke to her softly.

Finally, she stood to her feet. She looked around quickly, frantically. She ran to the edge of the playground, wailing all the way. Then she began to run in circles around the playground.  As she ran, she calmed herself, focusing on her hands bouncing in the air.

The whole time we were there, that’s what she did. Run in circles around the playground. Kids jumped, climbed, squealed and played hide and seek. And Rhema ran in circles, never able to come in and enjoy the swings and slides.

A few times I tried to interrupt her, re-direct her. I grabbed her hands, I tickled her, tried to coax her over to a climbing structure. But she brushed me off and stuck to the predictable – running laps around the playground.

She’s done this before. Once, before we knew her diagnosis, my sister, mother and I took her to a wading pool. “She’ll LOVE it. She loves the water,” my mother had said. But somehow it was too overwhelming and Rhema never put toe to water. Instead, she ran in circles.

Oh, my girl. How much of her life is spent on the periphery. As I suspect for many children with special needs, she seems so close yet so far away. She wants to take part, she wants to play and have fun. I know it.

But some days, it’s just beyond her reach. It’s just too much. It’s just too hard.

But she’ll keep trying, she’ll keep coming back.

Before long she will come in from the edges, she’ll play and jump and climb and swing and soar

She’ll get it.

And again I will be inspired by the strength, resilience and resourcefulness I see in these children to make it in the world.

14 thoughts on “Running In Circles

  1. but you know, some days she might just want to run in circles.

    she’s outside. she’s free. she’s running.

    that might have been the gift right there – far better than a swing or a dirty old structure crawling with other kids.

  2. Foster spends his entire recess doing just that. I’ve seen it. It’s difficult to watch. But he’s happy. He’s coping with recess. He’s getting lots of proprioceptive input. And he’s not hurting anyone. So we let him.

    It’s OK.

    Sometimes it’s hard, but it is OK.


  3. Was she frighten as she was running Jeneil?If not Whose to say that maybe this was her fun and activity. Only God knows and he will reveal it to you and Brandon her loving and wonderful parents.Love you.
    Gramma Smith

  4. Hey what are you doing next Friday night? We’ve got a fabulous girls night of pampering and fun at church… dress up, chocolate fountains, wonderful glittery prizes, and our speaker is the author of “When Wallflowers Dance”. That’s the topic for the night and your post with the image of Rhema circling the playground made me think of it. My mom was supposed to come but is now flying to Chile and so Voila! – extra ticket with your name on it.

  5. There have been plenty of times when Rhema has created her own fun. (Such as when we went to Pump It Up and she bounced on the floor the entire time instead of jumping in the bouncey houses). But this time at the playground, she was overwhelmed, tantrummed and then ran in non-stop circles to cope. And I think she did have some fun, but I could tell she wanted to play.

    Carrie, you had me at chocolate fountains. I wish I could come!

  6. Well, Jeneil, as I sit here imagining Rhema running in circles at the playground, the first thing that comes to mind is Joshua circling the city before the Lord gave him the victory (reference Joshua 6:15).

    The second thing that comes to mind is the Lord commanding David NOT to go straight up to conquer the city, but to circle around behind the enemies (reference 2 Samuel 5:23 & 1 Chronicles 14:14).

    Rhema seems like a mighty warrior to me. 🙂

  7. Wow, that actually reminds me of a time when Laurie was younger and there were no swings available (and two of them were taken by grown women chatting). She just started spinning in circles.

  8. Bummer, I feel your disappointment. It’s only one day though. Reid’s working on a solo of “People All Get Ready” by The Frames. It was a new song to me and I have come to love the comforting, appropo lyrics especially coming from him. I’ll post his version when I get it from the mom who had a charged video camery:) Hope it helps you feel better, as it does me on “those” days.

  9. fluffy has spent many an outing running in circles. why, just the other day! but he also has those times of joining and interacting. it will come. i know it.

  10. Christian runs the perimeter of our backyard, especially on night when he seems to be having extra sensory issues. I also witnessed him running around the edge of his school playground at recess this week. It must be calming for him. Someday I hope he won’t need that as much and will enjoy playing on the equipment or with the kids more.

  11. Sometimes I accept that my son is different, he has AS and that is OK. and then there is the other times when doubt creeps in. I dropped him off at scouts one evening. I watched as my 13year old stared at a tree while other boys played football. Instead of leaving I set and watched hoping he would join in, knowing he wouldn’t. Why is it that the little things are always the ones that grab me. Who cares if my son ever plays football, but for that moment I did. I follow your web site and pray for your children. Thank you for sharing your trials and joys with your two beautiful daughters. You are an amazing writer.

  12. Playgrounds are always so hard for so many reasons. We have a history of playground difficulties too, especially since my boys are 21 months apart! I don’t know how I did it sometimes. Thinking of you and hoping that next time is a little easier. xoxo

  13. I can SO relate to this playground experience. In fact, Im all teary-eyed right now. It struck me.. right in the soft spot of my heart. The spot that is reserved for my own little girl, standing on the periphery, running in her own circles, just arms length from the world…

  14. too bad the swings were occupied. A teenager who frequents a park near us seems to find his center on the swing. Back and forth, so high, it seems like he’s going to orbit the apparatus.

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